"thou shalt not covet"

Today I had a wonderful conversation, and then a great visit, with a friend and her children. Besides having a good time relaxing in someone else’s home with cookies and coffee and a new diversion (in this case, a new pair of super-adorable pygmy goats). It was one of those times where you have a few conversations that happen to provide good mental work and make life seem easier. Where you are grateful for a friend and for life’s circumstances that brought you together.

On another issue I am just feeling so congested and horrible. My mother recently bought a smoking new sewing machine. It was about $1000 and she walked into the dealership and wrote a check for the whole thing. I was with her; I helped her pick it out (I’d been scoping machines myself, more in the “wishful thinking” category). I went with her to her first class tonight. I sat there and watched as she messed with one million functions and sewed strong, stable seams and I thought about how sewing is a part of my life – more than hers – and here I am having something cherry dangled in front of me, just enough to see but not to have. Her Twin Demon of a high-end serger, bought as a present from her father for half again as much, sits in her closet almost entirely unused. In fact it was her serger example that led me to push for her to take the class and for me to attend with her; she reported to me she’d been feeling guilty about not using such a developed, specialized tool. I wanted her to, if she was going to buy it, use her new machine to its potential and love it. After all she herself has used mostly low-end machines for her sewing career as well. Still, despite knowing this was a good thing for her, it felt wretched for me.

This isn’t about a sewing machine. It’s part of a larger feeling of falling behind in some way, never to have what I want, never to catch up. It’s a shameful feeling of not being able to deal with going without unless I really put effort into it (effort I’m effecting now, I hope). It’s about getting lost in the mental wheel-spinning of envy, or getting caught up in other people’s plans and pursuits and reverse-projecting them into one’s own life. I know it isn’t wrong to want something nice, or well-made, for one of my life’s strongest passions. It’s soul-shrinking, however, to allow my feelings to prevent me from enjoying someone else’s experience of something lovely. For their sake, and because I’m their friend.

The fact is, obviously, her resources and her spending have nothing to do with me. Me, some day, it will come. If and when something (materially) fabulous like this machine is mine (examples of my treasured posessions spring to my mind: my wool pants, my Mac), I will cherish it, use it, and take good care of it. If I’m a talented and “deserving” seamstress I will find a way to make sewing work for me (nevermind the last 10 months of broken and inadequate machines and tons of bobbin case jams and busted seams… okay, deep, cleansing breath…) even when obstacles make it seem like a wasted effort.

Another fact is, I am strong enough to handle “going without” – whatever that means. Not buying something I can’t really afford, or struggling for groceries, or occasionally getting my gas shut off. Besides, lately life seems a little easier (financially) than it has been.* Or is it just that my husband and I seem to be on the same page more often these days? Whatever the reasons are, when I think about my own life and what I have to be grateful for, I feel humbled and contrite – and grateful, and, finally, finally! – joyful for my mother and her new purchase.

Today has been a good day but also draining. It is time once again to return to the family, to domestic chores – and tomorrow, painstakingly remove and re-do another crappy seam and try to patch it up again.

* Abbi – “Things are looking up for the Hogabooms!” as we said a few New Years’ ago.

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